Christmas and New Years are coming quickly. Need ideas for games for office parties, family gatherings, or other large groups? I first encountered these games in college. They should work just as well with older children and adults of all ages. For that matter, guests will enjoy them year round.
Some people love parties, while other people find them stressful. Parties can be fun for everyone if they include some group activities. Guessing games are wonderful fun, requiring only some simple props and at least two co-conspirators who know the secrets. Little by little, others at the party will figure them out and want to take their turns as co-conspirators.
At some point, usually before a round of the game starts, Co-conspirator 1 will leave the room. Co-conspirator 2 will remain with the other guests and give the clues that will enable Co-conspirator 1 to provide the correct answer, and perhaps provide false clues for everyone else trying to figure out the secret.
Expect some conversation to be about trying to guess the secret, and expect most guesses to be wrong. There are ways for the co-conspirators to take advantage of the errors. Some guests at the party will catch on quicker than others. That is part of the fun. By the end of the game, almost everyone will know the secret and will enjoy watching the rest figure it out. If not everyone does, by all means explain it at the end of the game.
The Magazine Game
Lay out nine magazines in a 3 x 3 rectangle. It looks better if they are all about the same size, but it really doesn't matter. Co-conspirator 1 leaves the room and everyone in the room agrees on one magazine as "it." When Co-conspirator 1 returns, Co-conspirator 2 points to various magazines. Co-conspirator 1 says either "no" or finally "yes," correctly identifying "it."
The secret? Mentally divide each magazine into nine parts, corresponding to the layout of the nine magazines on the floor. Co-conspirator 2 points to the part of "it" corresponding to its place on the floor. That is, if the magazine in the top left corner is "it," Co-conspirator 1 will recognize it because Co-conspirator 2 will point to it by indicating the top left corner of that magazine. The top-left corner of any other magazine will not match its place on the floor, and Co-conspirator 2 will not touch any other magazine in the corresponding place. That is, if top left is "it," be careful to touch the right-center magazine anywhere except its right-center area.
In the example above, it might be a fun red herring for Co-conspirator 2 to point to the top left corner of each of the first few magazines, or point to "it" the third in each of the early rounds. As soon as anyone mentions either possibility, break the pattern immediately.
"Spoons" requires only a handful of spoons and some space in the middle of the floor that everyone can see. Co-conspirator 1 leaves the room. Everyone else designates one person as "it." Co-conspirator 2 carefully lays out the spoons in an elaborate pattern and calls Co-conspirator 1 back into the room. After a few moments, Co-conspirator 1 identifies "it."
The secret? Co-conspirator 2 stands or sits mimicking the posture of "it." (Of course, if everyone chooses co-conspirator 2 as "it," he or she stand or sits in a posture conspicuously different from anyone else's.)
It will probably require five or six rounds before anyone figures it out. After a while, Co-conspirator 2 can quietly signal that the spoons have nothing to do with identifying "it" by laying them out in an arrow pointing to someone else entirely, or even tossing them on the floor in a random jumble.
The Broom Game
This game requires only a broom. Unlike the first two games, both co-conspirators remain in the room at the start of the game. Co-conspirator 2 says, "Let the broom game begin" and begins to sweep gently: the floor, the furniture, people's shoes--anything to create an air of mystery. The first person to speak after that is "it."
Co-conspirator 1 observes, waits for a while, announces, "The spirit of the broom has spoken" and leaves the room. After a brief pause, Co-conspirator 2 holds the broom over someone's head and calls, "The broom hangs." Co-conspirator 1 responds, "Let it hang." Repeat the same a second time. The third time, Co-conspirator 2 holds the broom over "its" head and calls, "The broom hang heavy." Co-conspirator 1 calls out the person's name.
Once, a particularly talkative guest got nailed three times in a row and started to get a little upset. At that point, one of the co-conspirators announced a hint: "The early bird gets the worm."
These games obviously cannot be repeated successfully at subsequent parties attended by all the same people, but that rarely happens. It will work as long as about half the guests do not know the game. In case anyone feels bad about having to have the secret explained or being a chatterbox, make sure to have that person on the guest list the next time you plan to use the same game, or select him or her to be a co-conspirator.